Special Olympics

Special Olympics provides programs for athletes with intellectual disabilities aged 2 and up. They offer over 30 sports, including swimming! The sports vary by season and typically involve 8 or 9 weeks of one hour, weekly practices. At the end of the season, every sport has a regional competition and many sports even have a state competition! To register for Special Olympics, visit SpecialOlympicsCO.org/SeasonalRegistration. Summer registration is open until May 31st. Special Olympics swim team can cater to kiddos of all abilities by offering a variety of events, such as water walking, swimming, and assisted events. If you child needs one on one assistance, it is helpful to alert the Special Olympics staff so they can make sure they are on a team with adequate support. Parents of children with sensory sensitivity may want to be aware that practices and meets are often very noisy, crowded, and bright. Overall, Special Olympic swimming is a great recreational activity that allows kiddos to compete on their own level and participate in as part of a team!

Occupational Therapy in the Pool

In recognition of National OT month, we thought we might share some insights on what aquatic occupational therapy looks like compared to traditional land-based treatment.

Regardless of the setting, occupational therapists rely on one foundation in their treatments, which are the occupations of each client. In pediatrics, play is often the occupation used to provide meaningful, purposeful, and individualized treatment plans for each child. 

Photo by Edneil Jocusol on Pexels.com

OT in a pool setting targets pediatric occupations as the pool is an instinctive play-based environment. Instead of a sensory gym, our entire treatment area is a sensory experience due to the properties of water. For instance, simply diving underwater provides a barrier to external light and noise, and increases deep pressure, proprioceptive, and tactile inputs. These barriers and inputs help target executive functioning, emotional regulation, coordination, and many other skills in the pool. Additionally, when you’re underwater, you unconsciously begin working on your breathing pattern as you innately coordinate your breaths with each plunge under the water.

Let’s think about another way OTs treat in the pool, such as teaching the skill of floating. Floating might seem like a simple task once you have it down, but when you break it down by each component, there’s a lot to it! To start, you must have a sense of your body in space- or proprioception, to figure out how to coordinate your arms, legs, and body to the top of the water. Secondly, floating is used as a great regulation tool, as your ears are covered- thus noise is blocked out, and your breathing pattern begins to slow down. Lastly, floating is simply a great safety skill to learn. Unfortunately, drowning continues to be the leading cause of death in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Thus, learning how to float, and how to position your body into a float independently is a vital skill that could save your child’s life. 

Altogether, while it might look different, OT in the pool makes so much sense! At TheraSWIM, we strive to use our unique setting to maximize your child’s sensory experiences while increasing their swimming and water safety skills. While no two children are the same, all children can benefit from customized swimming programs- whether this is through occupational or physical therapy treatments or adaptive swimming lessons with our skilled therapists and instructors.

Questions? Feel free to reach out to us at info@theraswimkids.com

Welcome Alex Burg!

We are thrilled to welcome Alex Burg to our team of Adaptive Swimming Instructors.  She recently graduated from OT school at CSU and is waiting to take her licensure exam.  Here’s more about Alex…

Hi! My name is Alex Burg. I’m from Kansas City, KS where I received my Developmental Psychology degree from Pittsburg State University. Two years ago, I moved to Fort Collins to advance my education and graduated in August of 2019 from Colorado State University with my Masters of Occupational Therapy degree. During my time as a student, I had the great opportunity throughout my clinical rotations to work in a variety of settings with children, which I soon discovered to be my passion in the OT field. This past summer I had a unique experience of leading pediatric adaptive swimming lessons, and I loved it! In my free time I enjoy hiking, biking, skiing- or doing anything outside in this beautiful state.

Alex pic

Officially Certified in the Swim Angelfish Methodology!

TheraSWIM is proud to announce that Susan Hunt, PT, DPT is officially certified in the Swim Angelfish Methodology for teaching swimming lessons to children with autism, sensory processing disorder, and other children with Special Needs.  She is excited to share her growing knowledge with the other swimming instructors, students, and their families.  Juliana, Addie, and Ally (our adaptive swimming instructors) are all on their way to becoming certified as they work their way through the curriculum this semester!  We are all completing monthly inservice videos to continue our learning and maintain our certifications.

Check out http://www.swimangelfish.com to learn more about this certification and model for teaching lessons to children with Special Needs.


TheraSWIM Welcomes 2 New Adaptive Swimming Instructors

TheraSWIM is excited to announce that we have added 2 new Adaptive Swimming Instructors to our team!  In addition to our current instructor, Juliana Meik, we are now joined by Addie Luehrs and Ally Wood!

Both Addie and Ally are excited to meet their new kiddos and families!  Addie and Ally both have several years of swim instruction experience, as well as experience with children with special needs.

All 3 of our Adaptive Swimming Instructors are completing the Swim Angelfish Methodology Certification (www.swimangelfish.com), a special certification that helps swimming instructors identify and address roadblocks common in children with autism, sensory processing disorder, and other special needs.  Addressing these roadblocks leads to less discomfort and greater efficiency when teaching kiddos with special needs how to be safe in the water and learn to swim!

We are also excited to announce the expansion of TheraSWIM to 2 new locations this fall.  In addition to the AmericInn and Suites in Windsor, we are also using the pools at the Comfort Inn and Suites in Centerra, and the pool at Work Out West in Greeley!


Addison Luehrs picAlly Wood adapative swimming teacher at TheraSWIM

Why Do Children with SPD Seek the Water?

Why Do Kids with SPD Seek the Water_








Many parents wonder why their sensory-seeking child craves the water, calms after being in the water, submerges frequently, splashes excessively, or seems exceptionally drawn to the water.  One reason is that the sensations their body receives in the water are significantly increased over what they receive sitting in the plain old air.  There are several properties of the water that contribute to the increased sensory input… viscosity, surface tension, hydrostatic pressure, and others.

Think about what it feels like to wave your arms through the air.  Now think about what it feels like to wave your body through the water.  The increased sensation is because the “thickness” or viscosity of water is much greater than the air.  The skin is the largest organ in the body and all of the receptors in your child’s skin are communicating this extra sensory input to their brain when they are moving through the water.

Surface tension also increases sensory input to your child’s brain.  Every time your child’s arms, legs, head, or trunk move in and out of the water, they must break the surface tension.  Water is unique in the way the molecules stick together, increasing the difficulty of separating them… aka breaking the surface tension.  Splashing, jumping, submerging, kicking, and other similar movements all increase sensory input to the brain, helping to satisfy the increased sensory needs of many kids.

Lastly, but probably most importantly, is hydrostatic pressure.  The pressure of the water pushing in on every skin cell of your child’s body acts like a huge hug, causing the release of dopamine in your child’s brain.  This is a feel good neurotransmitter that calms and counteracts adrenaline and other fight or flight feelings.  The hydrostatic pressure often feels SO good, that children will submerge and/or move upside down in the water to increase the sensation as much as possible.  Often, simply standing in neck deep water can release enough dopamine to calm a disorganized, upset child.

At TheraSWIM, we strive to use all of the properties of water to maximize your child’s experience and ability to learn swimming and water safety skills.  No two children are exactly the same, but all children can benefit from customized swimming instruction that satisfies their specific sensory needs.

*Many of these thoughts were inspired by specific interactions with patients and students, as well as the SWIM ANGELFISH Methodology Certification course by http://www.swimangelish.com.


Welcome, Juliana Meik!

TheraSWIM is growing….   Introducing Juliana Meik, long time swimming instructor and adaptive lessons teacher.  Juliana will be teaching adaptive swimming lessons and swim safety for TheraSWIM.   She is originally from California, but has lived in Colorado since 2007.  She has been teaching swimming lessons on and off since 1994.  In addition to teaching swimming lessons, Juliana is a service coordinator for Early Intervention in Weld County.  Juliana also loves spending time with close friends and family, summer lake swimming, paddle boarding, yoga, spin classes, lap swimming, exploring local restaurants, trying new quick and easy recipes, shopping, and simple crafts. She is excited to get to know each of you and your children a little better.


Christmas Presents for Kids Who Love Water Play


Christmas is getting so close, I can almost hear Santa’s jingle bells coming!  In the spirit of Christmas, here are 10 gift ideas for children who already love the water or to help your child learn to love the water!

  1. Puddlejumper
  2. Bathtub crayons
  3. Water table
  4. Pouring cups
  5. Waterproof books
  6. Flippers
  7. Torpedos
  8. Foam letters/numbers
  9. Water beads
  10. Squirters

*As always, I want to keep your kiddos safe, so remember- all toys should be used for appropriate age and developmental stage, as well as supervised if needed for safety!

**The links connect to Amazon items, but these are not the BEST or ONLY options for each idea!  The links are just meant to give a visual!

Can Aquatic PT Improve Scoliosis in Children?

Aquatic pt and scoliosis picSo… Can Aquatic PT improve scoliosis in children?  There is growing evidence that corrective exercises guided by a physical therapist in an aquatic environment can improve spinal curves in children.  A study (1) in 2009 displayed improved thoracic kyphosis and lumbar lordosis in 94 children ages 8-13 with scoliosis.  The children also had increased strength in the lower portion of their spinal extensor muscles.  Treatment focused on corrective exercises and swimming strokes with focused movement.  Another study in 2005 (2) showed that postural deficits are common in children with scoliosis.  In 106 children referred to a 3 month swimming/aquatic therapy program, children displayed improved shoulder and scapular symmetry after receiving aquatic therapy treatment.   The authors hypothesize that the aquatic environment “relieves pressure on the spine, relaxes muscles, and makes it easier to assume the proper posture. Swimming allows joint pleasure – water play and learning to swim – with therapeutic action.”

While there is no known “cure” for scoliosis, aquatic physical therapy has great potential for influencing spinal curves, strengthening the core/spinal musculature, and improving postural symmetry!

1 Barczyk K, et al.  Changes in body posture in children with first-degree scoliosis taking part in corrective exercises in a water environment. Ortop Traumatol Rehabil. 2005 Apr 30;7(2):180-6.
2 Barczyk K, et al.  The influence of corrective exercises in a water envronment on the shape of the antero-posterior curves of the spine and on the functional status of the locomotor system in children with Io scoliosis. Ortop Traumatol Rehabil. 2009 May-Jun;11(3):209-21.

Aquatic Therapy for Young Children?

Often parents wonder why their child would benefit from being in the water before they are old enough to swim.  How will aquatic therapy work at such a young age?  Does this form of therapy even make a difference if the child can’t even roll or sit up or walk independently yet?  Aquatic Therapy

An article in the Pediatric Journal of Physical Therapy by Beth McManus and Milton Kotelchuck in 2007 investigated this very question.  They compared children in an Early Intervention program (ages 6 months-2.5 years) receiving traditional home visits by a PT or OT and children that received weekly aquatic therapy treatment in addition to their weekly PT or OT home visit. The children participating in the aquatic therapy group had significant improvement in their gross motor skills and mobility when compared to children that received only home visits.

While it is impossible to tell whether the increase is entirely due to the aquatic nature of the added therapy sessions or simply due to having therapy 2x’s/week, the authors concluded that “The control group with motor delay demonstrated an overall decline in normal scores of gross motor skills, which is suggestive of a strong influence of AT (aquatic therapy) in augmenting services of children with neuromuscular and developmental delays and disabilities.”  This is GOOD NEWS!  This means that adding aquatic therapy services at this pivotal time in a child’s life can not only prevent them from losing ground in their gross motor skills when compared to their peers, but can actually help them gain ground!  In addition to the gains in motor skills, parents also found increased confidence in taking their child to recreational centers and community pools.  Parents and therapists also observed that the children had increased enjoyment during the therapy process.

What kinds of things do small children work on during aquatic physical therapy?  Depending on the ability and age of the child, the child may be fully supported by the therapist or may have some independence in shallow areas or with floatation devices.  The depth of water can be adjusted by where the therapist stands to either assist or resist the child’s movements.  This can be used to work on head control, balance, moving to and across midline, rolling, sitting, tummy time, standing, walking…. and on and on…  Kicking, reaching, floating with or without support, climbing out, jumping in, and blowing bubbles can all be used therapeutically to enhance motor skills.

In my own practice, I have seen many children develop core stability and control in the water, which has allowed them to move with new control in their homes and community.  I have also witnessed many first moments of independent standing, stepping, walking, and floating.  Perhaps most importantly of all, I see smiling faces (nearly all the time) and children who truly love spending time in the water.

Article can be read here: Aquatic Therapy and EI